HAMILTON, ON- Five members of the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team received national recognition on Thursday night at the 2016 All-Canadian Awards Gala, presented by Sun Life Financial, as head coach Michael Faulds was named the U Sports Coach of the Year and four student-athletes were named All-Canadians.
Along with Faulds’ award, defensive backs Godfrey Onyeka of Brampton, Ont., and Malcolm Thompson of Windsor, Ont., along with linebacker Nakas Onyeka of Brampton, Ont., were named U Sports First Team All-Canadians while defensive lineman Kwaku Boateng of Milton, Ont., was named a Second Team All-Canadian.
As the Frank Tindall Trophy award recipient, Faulds follows in the footsteps of Gary Jeffries (2003), Rick Zmich (1995), Rich Newbrough (1991) and two-time winner Dave ‘Tuffy’ Knight (1972, 1979) as Laurier coaches to capture the trophy.
In only his fourth season at the helm, Faulds capped off a remarkable turnaround for the purple and gold in 2016 as he led the Golden Hawks to a 7-1 conference mark – good for second place in the OUA standings – and then their first Yates Cup championship since 2005, just three years removed from a 1-7 campaign in his head coaching debut. It marked the Hawks’ best record since 2007 and their highest regular season finish since 2009.
The team set a new school record for touchdowns in a single regular season (43), scored the second most point in Laurier history (341) and posted the fourth-highest rushing yards total in school annals (2,251), the most since the 1970’s. The Hawks led the nation in rushing (281.4 yards per game) and finished second in total yards (500.6) and scoring (42.6 points per game).
On the defensive side of the ball, Laurier was simply dominant in all phases, allowing only 15.8 points per contest in league play, good for second in Ontario and fourth in the country. Anchored by all-Canadians Nakas Onyeka (LB), Godfrey Onyeka (CB), Malcolm Thompson (HB) and Kwaku Boateng (DE) – the top U Sports prospect for the upcoming CFL draft – the Hawks were among the Top 5 teams in the nation in a number of statistical categories, including first in sacks (36) and defensive touchdowns (6).
One of the greatest quarterbacks in Canadian university football history, Faulds was the all-time leader in passing yards (10,811) at the end of his stellar five-year career with Western in 2009, and now ranks second on the national list. A two-time Yates Cup winner as a player, he made his U Sports coaching debut with the York Lions, acting as the team’s offensive coordinator for three seasons from 2010 to 2012.
In total, five of Laurier’s six head coaches have now been recognized as the national coach of the year.
“Michael had all the tools to build a championship culture, including an educational philosophy that ensures that student-athletes are developed academically, athletically, and as leaders,” said Laurier director of athletics and recreation Peter Baxter. “He has surrounded himself with top coaching talent on his staff, recruited character student-athletes, and set expectations that drive results. I am not surprised he has earned national recognition for himself and his coaching staff.”
Along with the major award, four Golden Hawk student-athletes took home All-Canadian honours on Thursday night, the most the team has had in a year since 2006 when six players were recognized.
Nakas Onyeka, who was also a finalist for the President’s Award as Defensive Player of the Year, earned his first All-Canadian nod after a dominant season for the purple and gold. He finished second in the country in solo tackles with 51 and tackles for a loss with 15. He also ranked fifth in Canada in total tackles with 59.5 and 12th in the country in sacks at 5.5. Nakas’ performance leaves him third on the Hawks’ all-time tackles list with 155 for his career.
His cousin, Godfrey, was named to the first team for the second consecutive year, becoming the 12th player in school history to earn First Team All-Canadian recognition in multiple seasons. Godfrey put together the best season of his career, recording career-highs in tackles (40.5) while notching his first career forced fumble and fumble recovery. He also added a career-best four interceptions, tied for eighth in Canada, while returning one for a touchdown.
Thompson rounds out the list of First Team All-Canadians after earning the recognition for the first time in just his second year of eligibility. One of the most dangerous defensive backs in the country, Thompson finished tied for second in Canada with five interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. His 268 interception return yards led the nation and leave him with two Laurier records, most interception return yards in a season and most in a career (328). He also added 28 total tackles and three pass breakups.
Rounding out the Hawks’ All-Canadians for 2016 is Boateng, who was named to the Second Team for the second consecutive season. Boateng was the leader of a defensive unit that posted the most sacks in Canada this season with 36. He alone accounted for 6.5 of those, tied for fifth in Canada, a number which left him with 20.5 for his career, the most in school history. Showing his strong all-around game, Boateng also led U Sports in forced fumbles with four and was tied for eighth in pass breakups with six. He rounded out his campaign posting 22 total tackles, the most in his four-year career, and 9.5 tackles for a loss.